Tag Archives: Hiroto Kobukata

NPB 2020 Nov. 5

Thursday’s games

Other news

Higashihama’s luck runs out

Things went south in a hurry for Nao Higashihama, and the Lotte Marines exploited their advantage to pick up a crucial 6-1 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Thursday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium to stay in the Pacific League playoff picture.

Higashihama (9-2) needed two big plays from Yusuke Masago. The Hawks center fielder saved two runs by making a catch against the wall in the second inning, but couldn’t quite haul in Hisanori Yasuda’s two-out fifth-inning fly to the gap in left.

The Marines came from a run down in the inning after Seiya Inoue, who was robbed by Masago in the second, got justice with a one-out broken-bat single. With first baseman Kenji Akashi holding the big Marine at first, Yudai Fujioka bounced one over his head to put two on. With two outs, a decent 0-2 fastball drifted into the heart of the zone, and the rookie Yasuda put a good swing on it, driving it to left center. Masago came up short and the ball bounced to the wall. Fujioka, who had to hesitate on the play scored on a close play at the plate.

Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Higashihama gave up a one-out single and three two-out walks.

Manabu Mima (10-4) allowed an unearned run in the third. With two on and two outs, he gloved a liner from Yuki Yanagita but lost control of the ball. He retrieved it and threw wide to first, scoring the Hawks’ only run of the game. With the tying run at the plate in the form of slugger Alfredo Despaigne, Hirokazu Sawamura came in and struck out the big Cuban on four straight splitters. The Marines’ lucky two-run fifth snapped a 28-scoreless-inning streak since Lotte scratched him for a run in the Hawks’ 5-1 win on Oct. 10.

Eagles ride late rally

Thirty-two-year-old veteran Ginji Akaminai and rookie Hiroto Kobukata each doubled in a ninth-inning run off Taiwan right-hander Chang-Yi (2-4) as the Rakuten Eagles broke up a 2-2 tie to beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-2 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita (2-2) earned the win, and lefty Yuki Matsui earned his second save as he transitions back to the bullpen after spending the first half of the season transitioning to the starting rotation. Longtime starter Wataru Karashima, who spent the first half of the season in the bullpen, allowed two runs over seven innings in which he struck out 10, walked one and allowed five hits.

Ono earns Dragons an ‘A’

Sawamura Award winner in waiting Yudai Ono (11-6) struck out seven and walked one over seven innings to pitch the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-0 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome. The win clinched the Dragons’ first top-three “A-class” finish since 2012.

That 2012 second-place finish came under the late Morimichi Takagi in the first year after the club fired their best manager ever, Hiromitsu Ochiai, for not being fan friendly, and three years after the team’s parent company began cutting spending in the wake of the downturn in Japan’s newspaper business.

Ono leads the CL with a 1.82 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 10 complete games, six shutouts and 148-2/3 innings.

Speedy Murakami swipes 3 in 1 inning

Munetaka Murakami raised his career stolen base total to 16 with three in the second inning of the Yakult Swallows’ 8-7 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.

The steals came in his 265th career game, as he became the 17th player in Japan to manage the feat. The 20-year-old cleanup hitter singled, took second on the next pitch, stole third as part of a double steal. He stole home when the Tigers tried to pick off his teammate at second.

The feat hadn’t occurred in the CL since 1953. It last happened in Japan when Nippon Ham’s Makoto Shimada did it in 1979.

The Tigers overcame a seven-run implosion by right-hander Yuki Nishi.

Chono leads Carp, Sakamoto inches closer

Former Giant Hisayoshi Chono hit his 10th home run and set up the winning run with a 10th-inning leadoff single as the Hiroshima Carp came from behind to beat Yomiuri 5-4 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto belted his 18th home run in the sixth inning. The two-run shot tied it 2-2 and moved Sakamoto within two hits of 2,000 for his career.

Government slams ‘Tazawa Rule’

Japan’s government announced Thursday that it was a day late and a dollar short. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the fair trade commission said it suspected Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tazawa Rule was a violation of Japan’s antimonopoly act.

NPB gave up on the rule this summer, and the FTC said it has dropped its investigation. The biggest surprise is less that the FTC dropped its inquiry than the realization that Japan actually has an antimonopoly law.

The rule in question was created in 2008 in the days before Tazawa, a top amateur prospect with corporate club Japan Energy, signed with the Boston Red Sox. The rule was aimed at players who turned pro overseas, and prohibited Japanese clubs from signing them after they returned to Japan for a period of two-to-three years.

The whole thing was riddled with irony, no less because the rule was put into place about the same time that lefty reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi was named Central League rookie of the year. Yamaguchi had turned pro in the United States, where he played rookie ball in Missoula, Montana.

The rule may have influenced high school pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani as they chose to remain in Japan after declaring their intent to go overseas.

NPB did away with the Tazawa rule this summer when he returned to Japan and joined the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League.

In retrospect, the rule negatively impacted Tazawa and NPB, while limiting the options of two other players who were keen on turning pro with a major league club, Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani.

The rule prevented Tazawa from choosing to enter NPB’s 2019 draft rather than accept a camp invite with the Cincinnati Reds. It also prevented Japan from selecting him in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The 2013 squad, Japan’s first not to reach the final, was prohibited from selecting Tazawa, despite both head coach Masataka Nashida and pitching coach Tsuyoshi Yoshida saying how useful his participation would have been.

By getting rid of the rule, it made Tazawa eligible to be drafted last October, but no teams even took a flyer on him–a common practice when a player has broken one of the owners’ unwritten rules. Players of known quality who leave their teams in contract disputes have historically been ignored.

Martin re-enlists with Marines

Outfielder Leonys Martin, who is currently out with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss most or all of the postseason if the Lotte Marines qualify, has agreed to a two-year extension, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas has reported.

The deal according to Rojas is worth $6 million. The 32-year-old joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline. Since then, he has made a big contribution with his powerful arm and his home run pop.

Although his numbers have been remarkably consistent since he arrived, his on-base percentage has jumped in 2020 because he is leading both of Japan’s leagues in being hit by pitches with 17, in 448 plate appearances.

Active roster moves 11/5/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/15

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi

Dectivated

BayStarsP20Yuya Sakamoto
CarpP66Atsushi Endo
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesOF25Ryo Nishimura

Dectivated

FightersP18Kosei Yoshida
BuffaloesOF00Hayato Nishiura

Starting pitchers for Nov. 6, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takayuki Kishi (6-0, 3.39) vs Shota Hamaya (3-2, 4.84)

Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (0-1, 4.09) vs Ryusei Kawano (3-4, 5.13)

Central League

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-2, 5.71) vs Keiji Takahashi (1-3, 3.98)

NPB 2020 Oct. 24

Saturday’s games

Other news

Haraguchi does it again for Tigers

Fumihito Haraguchi delivered off the bench for the fourth straight game, his two-out seventh-inning pinch-hit single breaking a 1-1 tie in the Hanshin Tigers’ 2-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.

The Giants started the day with a magic number of five to clinch their second straight Central League championship.

Jerry Sands scored the go-ahead run after reaching on a leadoff single to decide a pitchers’ duel between Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (13-2) and tough Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi (5-4).

Takahashi allowed a run on four hits and two walks while striking out three over six innings. Jon Edwards, Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez kept the Giants from scoring over the remaining three innings with Suarez getting his CL-leading 23rd save.

Koji Chikamoto became the Tiger’s first base runner by smacking a hanging breaking pitch and beating out a one-out infield single in the fourth despite a good play from Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Chikamoto, the CL stolen base leader, took second on a wild pitch even though catcher Takumi Oshiro was able to keep the ball in front of him, and then scored easily when Kento Itohara’s little fly to shallow right fell in for a single.

Sugano tied it in the sixth by scoring on a sac fly after reaching on a leadoff double. With the Tigers outfield playing him shallow, he flied over Chikamoto’s head for his third double of the season. Naoki Yoshikawa fell behind trying to sacrifice him, before grounding a mistake from Takahashi just past Jefry Marte at first for a single. Takahashi missed down the pipe to Seiya Matsubara, whose liner to right was caught, but allowed Sugano to score.

Giants-Tigers highlights

Sands was tossed in the eighth complaining about a couple of calls by home plate umpire Tetsuya Shimada. Sands took 1-0 pitch away and below the knees for a strike, and was called out on a pitch that the overhead camera showed was well beyond the outside corner. That drew some f-bombs and the ejection.

Morishita goes the distance

Right-hander Masato Morishita (9-3) allowed four hits over the distance and drove in the eventual winning run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

Morishita struck out five in his 135-pitch outing, and went 2-for- at the plate. Ryosuke Kikuchi singled with two outs in the eighth, stole second and scored on the pitcher’s single to break a 1-1- tie. BayStars right-hander Shoichi Ino allowed a run over six innings but left with nothing to show for it.

The loss dropped the fourth-place BayStars three games below .500 although they have outscored opponents 461-422.

Ogawa denies Dragons

Yasuhiro Ogawa (10-6) allowed two runs over six innings as the Yakult Swallows battered Takahiro Matsuba (3-7) and overcame a big night from Nobumasa Fukuda to beat the Chunichi Dragons 9-5 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Fukuda, who returned to duty on Friday after missing 1-1/2 months, took Ogawa deep in the fourth and doubled in two runs in the Dragons’ three-run seventh.

The highlight of the game, however, belonged to Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, who got perhaps the ultimate celebration of his first pro hit. As the ball was being returned from left field, fireworks erupted beyond the ballpark’s third-base stands and continued for about a minute due to an event going on at Tokyo’s National Stadium down the street that was built as the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympics to be held next year.

Later in the game, play was disrupted following a balloon release from the stadium.

Grand slam king Nakamura halts Hawks

Takeya Nakamura extended his record for career grand slams with his 21st, bringing the Seibu Lions from a run down in the eighth inning in a 4-1 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay dome that snapped the SoftBank Hawks’ 12-game winning streak.

Livan Moinelo (2-3) issued three walks for the first time since he came to Japan in 2017 and got his only out on a sacrifice before turning the ball over to right-hander Sho Iwasaki with the right-handed-hitting Nakamura coming up.

The six-time PL home run champ then launched a high straight 2-1 fastball out to center, spoiling a strong game from Hawks right-hander Nao Higashihama, who threw seven scoreless innings for his second consecutive start.

In the postgame hero interview, Nakamura was asked if the home run was a good present for Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji’s 62nd birthday.

“I wasn’t thinking about that when I batted, but I’m glad it worked out that way,” Nakamura said.

I love Nakamura’s straight-forward answers to some of those questions. Once, when asked what the mood on the bench was when he went to the plate, he answered, “I don’t know. I wasn’t on the bench. I was going to the plate.”

Albers deals Marines their 6th straight loss

Andrew Albers (4-7) allowed two singles and two walks over 6-2/3 innings, three relievers carried it the rest of the way and Takahiro Okada homered for the second straight game as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Lotte Marines 3-0 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome. Brandon Dickson worked around a two-out single to record his 16th save.

Fighters pen out-scrapes Eagles’

The Nippon Ham Fighters’ bullpen outlasted the Rakuten Eagles’ in a 5-4 win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, when Sho Nakata homered to tie the game in the eighth inning and hit a two-out fly ball that wasn’t caught and brought home the go-ahead run in the ninth.

Nakata moved into a tie for the Japan home run lead with the Eagles’ Hideto Asamura when he drove a hanging 1-0 breaking ball well back into the stands in left field. Fighters took the lead in the ninth against closer Alan Busenitz (1-3), who allowed a two-out Kensuke Kondo single.

Busenitz missed up high with a 1-2 breaking ball that Nakata got underneath and skied down the left-field line. A pair of rookies converged on it, and shortstop Hiroto Kobukata backed off to let left fielder Yuya Ogo get it. But Ogo took his time, had to sprint to get to the ball and overran it. The ball landed fair, and Kondo beat the throw home. Ogo was harshly charged with the error and Busenitz ended up taking the loss.

Both Kobukata and Ogo singled in the bottom of the ninth before veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi escaped a two-out bases loaded jam when Steven Romero lined out to short. Kobukata, who appears to be running away with the PL’s rookie of the year award, went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer.

Active roster moves 10/24/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/3

Central League

Activated

TigersP29Haruto Takahashi

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesIF48Yoshiaki Watanabe
EaglesOF38Masaki Iwami
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
BuffaloesP27Andrew Albers

Dectivated

EaglesP31Yuya Fukui
EaglesIF24Fumiya Kurokawa

Starting pitchers for Oct. 25, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Ryota Takinaka (1-1, 3.76) vs Kohei Arihara (7-8, 3.40)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Chang Yi (2-2, 3.20) vs Daiki Iwashita (5-7, 4.46)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Kotaro Otake (1-0, 2.53) vs Wataru Matsumoto (5-5, 4.16)

Central League

Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Seishu Hatake (3-3, 3.14) vs Takumi Akiyama (8-3, 3.10)

Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 6:30 pm, 5:30 am EDT

Albert Suarez (4-2, 2.36) vs Yuya Yanagi (4-6, 4.26)

BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yuta Muto (0-1, 6.39) vs Yuta Nakamura (3-2, 2.20)

NPB 2020 Oct. 15

Thursday’s games

Other news

Hasegawa slams clinches Hawks sweep

After being shutout in two straight games, the Orix Buffaloes finally managed to score, but 14-year veteran Yuya Hasegawa broke up a close game in the sixth inning with his first career grand slam in the SoftBank Hawks’ 9-4 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The three-game sweep moved the Hawks four games clear atop the Pacific League standings ahead of the Lotte Marines, who lost 6-0 at home to the Rakuten Eagles. The Hawks have won the last three Japan Series, but haven’t won a PL pennant since 2017.

Hawks right-hander Shuta Ishikawa (8-3) was hard to hit as usual with his customary lack of command. He allowed two runs over five innings on three hits, two walks and three hit batsmen.

Akira Nakamura singled in the tie-breaking run in the sixth and Hasegawa, pinch-hitting for Wladimir Balentien, faced new pitcher Motoki Higa after Taiki Tajima (4-5) loaded the bases with one out.

Yurisbel Gracial went 3-for-4 with two runs for the Hawks, while Steven Moya went 2-for-4 with an RBI double for Orix.

Eagles close on 2nd behind Kishi shutout

Takayuki Kishi threw his first shutout in two years as the Rakuten Eagles moved to within four games of the second-place Lotte Marines with a 6-0 win at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

At the same park where in May 2014 he threw his only no-hitter while a member of the Seibu Lions, Kishi (4-0) struck out 13, one shy of his career high, set in 2018. The right-hander allowed two hits and walked one.

Good breaks and good swings put the visitors in front in a four-run second against Kazuya Ojima (7-7). Stefen Romero hit a flare off the end of the bat for a leadoff single. Kazuki Tanaka chased a pitch out of the zone but hit it well for a single. A fielders choice on a sacrifice loaded the bases with no outs.

Rookie Hiroto Kobukata lined a fastball down the pipe for a two-run double and Daichi Suzuki followed with a two-run single off his former team. Romero went 3-for-4 with two runs for the Eagles.

Double-time Kondo ravages Lions

Kensuke Kondo doubled four times, singled, scored twice and drove in four early runs in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 8-3 win over the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.

The Fighters’ top two hitters, Haruki NIshikawa and Shota Hiranuma each reached in the first and second, helping the Fighters build a quick 5-0 lead against Zach Neal (4-5).

Nick Martinez (2-6) allowed three runs over six innings on three hits and three walks to earn the win. 2019 MVP Tomoya Mori accounted for all three Lions runs with a three-run, third-inning home run, his eighth.

Takahashi picks up Dragons pen

The Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen blew a lead for the first time in ages, but Shuhei Takahashi belted a three-run walk-off homer against Hanshin Tigers closer Robert Suarez (2-1) in a 5-3 win at Nagoya Dome.

After back-to-back shutout wins in the series’ first two games, Takahiro Matsuba worked five scoreless innings despite putting two men on in three of them. Yoichi Oshima singled to open the Dragons’ first and scored on a Zoilo Almonte single.

Matsuba also had two hits and contributed to one of Chunichi’s runs, when Oshima doubled in a run in the fourth to make it 2-0.

Dragons relievers Keisuke Tanimoto and Hiroto Fuku kept the Tigers scoreless through seven before Daisuke Sobue blew the lead in Hanshin’s three-run eighth. Jon Edwards worked a scoreless eighth to preserve the visitors’ only lead of the series, but things went south in the ninth.

With one out and two on, Dayan Viciedo lined out to second. Reserve second baseman Kai Ueda’s throw to double off the runner at second was wild and put the winning run at second with two outs

Suarez threw Takahashi a 1-1 159-kph fastball down the pipe, and he hit it off the end of the bat. The fly ball sliced but just stayed fair down the left-field line for an opposite-field three-run home run.

Matsuyama salvages draw for Carp

Ryuhei Matsuyama hit a Tokyo Dome special, a high opposite-field fly to the the dome’s invitingly close walls in straight-away left and right, for a two-run game-tying home run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 5-5 10-inning tie against the Yomiuri Giants.

The Carp had a golden opportunity to break the tie in the eighth but it died in a failed squeeze attempt.

Ryosuke Kikuchi, the Carp’s seven-time Golden Glove Award-winning second baseman, set a Central League record by recording 434 consecutive errorless chances.

“If you ask me, a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage is boring, since human beings make mistakes and you want to know the guy out there is human.”

–Pro Yakyu News analyst Yutaka Takagi, when asked about Kikuchi’s chances of surpassing his own single-season record for highest fielding percentage at second base.

Giants-Carp highlights.

Rookie Yoshida holds off BayStars’

Rookie right-hander Daiki Yoshida (2-6) allowed two runs over six innings and drove in one run with a sacrifice fly in the Yakult Swallows’ 4-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Keita Sano opened the scoring in the second inning by homering for the fourth straight game, but the Swallows took the lead in the home half on Yoshida’s sac fly. The Swallows’ Munetaka Murakami hit his 22nd home run, while Takayuki Kajitani hit his 17th for DeNA.

Active roster moves 10/15/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/25

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP59Kentaro Taira
TigersP22Kyuji Fujikawa
DragonsP38Takahiro Matsuba
SwallowsP28Daiki Yoshida

Dectivated

GiantsP47Takahiro Fujioka
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesP66Ryo Yoshida

Dectivated

BuffaloesP11Sachiya Yamasaki
BuffaloesP15Yudai Aranishi

Starting pitchers for Oct. 16, 2020

Pacific League

Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tatsuya Imai (3-3, 6.08) vs Taisuke Yamaoka (2-4, 2.76)

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kota Futaki (6-2, 3.33) vs Toshihiro Sugiura (6-4, 3.09)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Matt Moore (4-3, 3.06) vs Takahiro Shiomi (4-7, 4.41)

Central League

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shoichi Ino (6-6, 4.07) vs Nobutaka Imamura (3-2, 3.99)

Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuki Nishi (9-4, 2.18) vs Hiroaki Saiuchi (1-1, 4.82)

Carp vs Dragons: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiroki Tokoda (3-6, 5.92) vs Yariel Rodriguez (2-4, 4.12)

NPB 2020 Sept. 13

Lions’ Matsumoto turns back Hawks

Shuta Tonosaki opened the game with a home run and Wataru Matsumoto (3-3) worked seven scoreless innings to outduel Shuta Ishikawa (6-2) in the Seibu Lions’ 1-0 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Tonosaki appeared to geared up for a fastball and when Ishikawa threw a straight 1-0 pitch down the pipe, the Lions super utility man drove it well back into the permanent seats in left for his fifth home run.

The Hawks threatened to score in the home half when Taisei Makihara squared up a first-pitch center-cut fastball for a leadoff double. But Matsumoto’s fastball was too much for Akira Nakamura who continually hit under it, fouling it off twice before a popping up for the first out. After a cautiously walking Yuki Yanagita, Yurisbel Gracial grounded a low fastball into a double play.

Matsumoto got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, again with some extra mustard on his fastball, as the normally deadly Nakamura miss-hit a heater to second for an inning-ending groundout.

Ishikawa allowed four hits, two walks and hit a batter while striking out six in a typically solid performance, but after Lions middle reliever Kaima  Taira set the Hawks down in order, the hosts wasted a two-on no-out chance in the ninth against closer Tatsushi Masuda.

A sacrifice advanced two pinch-runners into scoring position, Masuda overpowered grinding right-handed hitter Keizo Kawashima for the second out, and then came within a hair of disaster. The right-hander missed up with a 1-0 fastball that Makihara hammered down the third base line where it was caught by Wu Nien-ting for the final out instead of going for a game-winning two-run single. The save was Masuda’s 17th.

Eagles outpunch Fighters

The Rakuten Eagles tattooed Kohei Arihara (4-7) for nine runs over 2-1/3 innings, who wasted a six-run second inning against Takayuki Kishi in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 14-6 loss at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Hideto Asamura opened the scoring for the hosts in the first inning with his 22nd home run, a two-run shot, but the Haruki Nishikawa’s three-run shot capped the visitors’ six-run second.

The Eagles tied in the third and took the lead in a three-run third on rookie Hiroto Kobukata’s RBI single. Kobukata, who singled and scored in the second, added a two-run double in the third.

The loss snapped a streak of four-straight solid outings for Arihara. Kishi stayed on the mound for 3-1/3 innings.

Fan-favorite Watanabe to hang it up

The game broadcast repeatedly cut to shots of Eagles player coach Naoto Watanabe, who announced he would retire at the end of the season.

A native of Miyagi Prefecture where Sendai is located, the 39-year-old Watanabe is a serviceable middle infielder. In his first few years was a good on-base percentage hitter and efficient base stealer for the Eagles before stints with the BayStars and Lions. A fan favorite in Sendai, he returned to Rakuten in 2018, but had played in 88 games since.

But if Japan likes melodrama more than almost anything, so when asked about Watanabe, manager Hajime Miki gushed during his postgame interview.

“We have a lot of emotions when it comes to Naoto and the players all agreed we should dedicate the rest of this season to him, so that his last year as a player is something special.”

–Eagles manager Hajime Miki on player-coach Naoto Watanabe’s announcing he would retire at the end of the season.

Marines breakthrough against Buffaloes pen

Manabu Mima (7-2) allowed two runs over seven innings and the Lotte Marines scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh off lefty reliever Nobuyoshi Yamada (2-3) to break up a tie game in a 9-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Hisanori Yasuda doubled in single runs in the first and third off Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi, who left after allowing two runs on two hits and four walks over five innings.

The Buffaloes tied it in the top of the seventh on a Masataka Yoshida RBI double, but Yoshida was gunned down at the plate trying to score against Leonys Martin’s arm to end the inning.

In a game twice interrupted by rain delays, Mima struck out seven without issuing a walk. He collected the win when the Marines began their seventh-inning rally after two were down. Yasuda capped the inning with a two-run single. The Marines’ 21-year-old rookie cleanup hitter has been struggling since a hot start to the season.

“Mima did a great job of shaking off the rain delays and staying on his game,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “Real veteran stuff from him. Yasuda, has been having a hard time of it, and sure this game is a big relief to him, so he can mover forward now with a refreshed outlook.”

Martin piled on in the eighth with a three-run double for the Marines.

Dragons ride lucky bounce past stars

The DeNA BayStars lost a big first-inning double play when a batted ball deflected off the second-base bag, costing them two runs in their 3-2 loss to the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

With two on and no outs, and the BayStars left-handed hitter Zoilo Almonte’s grounder was headed straight up the middle to where shortstop Yota Kyoda was poised to pick it and start an easy double play until the ball struck the bag and rolled into shallow left for an RBI single. With no outs, Dayan Viciedo supplied a sac fly before starting pitcher Shinichi Onuki (6-3) got out of the inning with a double play.

Neftali Soto homered off former ace Kazuki Fushimi in the first, but both bullpens shut the door after the fourth inning. Onuki lasted six innings, allowing three runs. Dragons closer Raidel Martinez struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save.

“Onuki pitched a really good game today. The first inning he gave up a couple of hits, but those balls were good pitches and they just put good swings on good pitches. Other than that, he did a tremendous job today,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “Sometimes the ball bounces like that. It’s baseball. After he (Soto) hit a home run, I thought we would be able to score more runs. But we’re hitting pretty good. We couldn’t just come up with the big hit at the right moment. That happens.”

Maru homer lifts Giants past Swallows

Yoshihiro Maru’s 15th home run overturned a 1-0 fourth-inning deficit as the Yomiuri Giants came back to beat the Yakult Swallows 3-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Cristopher Mercedes (4-4) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings, leaving after a one-out sixth-inning walk put two on with one out. Yohei Kagiya struck out both batters he faced and with Monday a day off, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara made liberal use of his bullpen, finishing with Rubby De La Rosa, who earned his 12th save.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-3) allowed three runs over six innings on seven hits and two walks. He struck out eight.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Suarez, Yokawa boost Tigers

Closer Robert Suarez (2-0) who has recently been tasked with getting four-out saves, entered a tie game in the eighth inning and earned the win after Naomasa Yokawa homered in the bottom of the eighth in the Hanshin Tigers’ 7-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.

Seiya Suzuki’s three-run homer in the top of the first put the Carp in front against Shintaro Fujinami, but the Tigers came back to score five runs, four earned, off Hiroshima starter Kazuki Yabuta.

Kento Itohara and Justin Bour singled in one run apiece in the first and third innings to put the Tigers in front briefly before the game turned into a battle of the bullpens, which the Tigers eventually won.

Active roster moves 9/13/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/23

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF51Shunta Tanaka
DragonsP19Kazuki Yoshimi

Dectivated

GiantsP33Ryu Ota

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP11Takayuki Kishi
FightersP49Katsuhiko Kumon

Dectivated

HawksP18Shota Takeda

Starting pitchers for Sept. 14, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Takahiro Shiomi (4-5, 4.60) vs Drew VerHagen (5-3, 4.16)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kota Futaki (3-2, 4.73) vs Andrew Albers (3-5, 3.62)

NPB 2020 8-15 games and news

Ogawa becomes Japan’s 82nd to throw no-no

Yakult Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa became the 82nd top-flight pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Japanese pro baseball on Saturday, when he struck out 10 and walked three in a 9-0 Central League win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

Ogawa, whose nickname comes from the Nolan Ryan leg kick he adopted as a youngster, became the first Swallows pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Rick Guttormson achieved the feat in May 2006. It was the 93rd no-hitter, called a “no-hit, no-run” game in the history of Japanese pro ball. No-hitter’s aren’t awarded without a shutout.

Ogawa, who leaned heavily on his fastball and splitter, issued a first-inning walk, while the BayStars managed a runner in the second, when rookie right fielder Taiki Hamada went down to a knee to catch a line drive, only for the ball to spill out of the webbing of his glove for an error.

The Swallows hit BayStars ace Shota Imanaga like a truck, scoring six runs, three earned, off the lefty on six hits and three walks over 3-1/3 innings.

Seven of Ogawa’s 10 strikeouts came after he had a 6-0 lead, and after Hamada’s misplay, the right-hander retired the next 12 batters before he walked Tatsuhiro Shibata with tow outs in the sixth.

Ogawa needed 102 pitches to get through the seventh and his no-hit bid was looking bleak when he walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth after a 10-pitch battle. Daisuke Nakai smacked his next pitch to short, but what looked like two quick outs soon looked like a long tough inning when second baseman Taishi Hirooka dropped the throw from his shortstop.

The first BayStars runner to reach second, would also be the last as Ogawa needed just 22 pitches to finish off the last six hitters, recording his final strike out with pitch No. 135 to end it.

Dragons’ Rodriguez stops Giants

Yariel Rodriguez went seven impressive innings for the Chunichi Dragons in their 7-4 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.

The 23-year-old, who joined the Dragons on a non-roster developmental contract on Feb. 5 and was added to the 70-man roster on July 1, allowed a run on six hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out nine.

Dayan Viciedo hit his 10th home run of the season in the fourth, a no-out, two-run shot off Giants lefty Kazuto Taguchi (2-2) to make it 3-0. Nobumasa Fukuda, who had an RBI single in the first, walked ahead of Viciedo’s homer and also walked and scored in Chunichi’s four-run eighth.

Zelous Wheeler had three hits, including his sixth home run, a ninth-inning solo shot off closer Raidel Martinez.

Giants-Dragons highlights.

Para to be deactivated with bum knee

The Yomiuri Giants indicated Saturday that they will deactivate outfielder Gerardo Parra, who is suffering from pain in his right knee, the Nikkan Sports reported.

“It’s been troubling him since well before this,” head coach Daisuke Motoki said. “It looked like he was in pain both when he ran and when he batted, so we’ve decided not to push him. Instead we want him to go to the farm team, get it healed and come back.”

Bour, Sands maul Carp in Tigers win

First-year imports Justin Bour and Jerry Sands each drove in three runs, and Yuki Nishi (3-3) allowed two runs over seven innings as the Hanshin Tigers whipped the Hiroshima Carp 10-2 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Carp ace Daichi Osera (4-2) was hammered for five runs on eight hits over five innings.

Sands drove in the game’s first run with an infield single, but went to the other end of the spectrum with his ninth home run, a two-run shot, in the sixth that made it 8-2.

Bullpen to the rescue as Buffaloes snap skid

Takahiro Okada’s two-run “excuse-me-swing” single opened the floodgates for the Orix Buffaloes, and their bullpen kept the SoftBank Hawks in check in an 8-2 win on Saturday afternoon to snap their seven-game losing streak.

Coming off a tough loss in which their starting pitcher did everything well except keep Yuki Yanagita from crushing a well-executed inside fastbal, the Buffaloes caught some breaks in a two-run first before hammering Hawks starter Akira Niho (3-4) for three more in the second.

The Buffaloes opened the scoring on Shuhei Fukuda’s one-out walk, a Yuma Mune single up the middle and a two-out, two-run double when Okada was fooled by 1-2 splitter out of the zone. The left-handed slugger managed to hit it off the end of the bat for a flare that dropped in shallow left that gave the visitors the lead.

Orix starter Kazumasa Yoshida worked three scoreless innings. He gave up two singles and two walks, and twice disposed of Yanagita on two pitches, including just one fastball well out of the zone.

The Buffaloes took the air out of the game in the second. Masato Matsui looked like he was sitting on a curveball when he drove an 0-1 breaking ball to the track for a one-out double. Niho failed to glove a comebacker for an error and hit a batter to load the bases for Fukuda, who drilled a hanging two-seamer for a two-run single. Masaki Mimori robbed Mune of a single with a diving catch of a liner to second only for Masataka Yoshida to bang an RBI double and make it 5-0.

Right-hander Yudai Aranishi made some good pitches to Wladimir Balentien, but Japan’s single-season home run record holder homered off the bat to center. Rookie right-hander Ryo Yoshida (1-1), the third of Orix’s seven-pitcher parade, was awarded his first career win for pitching a scoreless fifth.

Arihara gets it done in Fighters’ rout

Kohei Arihara (2-5) put his struggles behind him for one night as he struck out nine over seven scoreless innings, and Sho Nakata drove in three early runs in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 9-0 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Nakata belted his 16th homer, a two-run shot off Kota Futaki (1-2) in the fourth. The right-hander allowed four runs over seven innings to take the loss.

Eagles tie it off Lions top relievers

The two rocks in the Seibu Lions bullpen this season, setup man Reed Garrett and closer Tatsushi Masuda, combined to blow a late 3-0 lead against the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome. Their game was called a 3-3 tie after 10 innings.

The Lions took a three-run first-inning lead on a Hotaka Yamakawa RBI double and Ernest Mejia’s two run home run, his fifth in five games. Rookie Wtaru Matsumoto left the game after seven shutout innings, having allowed one hit and three walks.

With the Lions’ game in their best hands, the Eagles struck. Ryosuke Tatsumi homered with one out in the eighth, and rookie Hiroto Kobukata doubled and scored on an Eigoro Mogi single.

Hiroaki Shimauchi singled to open the Eagles’ ninth and scored the tying run on a Tatsumi single.

Active roster moves 8/15/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/25

Central League

Activated

SwallowsOF65Shotaro Tashiro

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP13Kohei Morihara
EaglesP21Yoshinao Kamata
MarinesP20Taiki Tojo
FightersC10Yushi Shimizu

Dectivated

EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
EaglesP91Yuya Kubo
MarinesP33Masaki Minami
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
FightersP63Ryuji Kitaura

Starting pitchers for Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020

Pacific League

p>Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Keisuke Honda (0-4, 3.76) vs Yuya Fukui (0-1, 1.69)

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Toshiya Nakamura (1-0, 3.42) vs Drew VerHagen (4-1, 3.02)

Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Shuta Ishikawa (4-0, 2.39) vs Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.35)

Central League

Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Seishu Hatake (0-1, 3.18) vs Yudai Ono (2-3, 3.35)

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kentaro Taira (3-2, 1.72) vs Hirofumi Yamanaka (0-1, 3.00)

Tigers vs Carp: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takumi Akiyama (4-1, 4.30) vs Atsushi Endo (2-2, 4.38)

NPB 2020 8-13 games and news

Otake frustrates Buffaloes in season debut

Kotaro Otake made a lot out of a little on Thursday as his low-velocity deliveries frustrated hitters and helped earn him the win in his belated season debut as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Orix Buffaloes 3-1 to remain in a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Otake, who has been with the minor league squad since feeling stiffness in his left elbow in camp and was 4-0 in the Western League, allowed five hits and a walk while striking out three over 5-2/3 innings. Although it was an impressive effort, Otake got off to a rocky start.

In the first inning, he challenged leadoff hitter Tatsuya Yamaashi with a 1-0 fastball down the pipe. But it wasn’t a very good one, and the light-hitting reserve showed what a professional hitter can do when giving a cookie, driving it well back in PayPay Dome’s left-field stands for his third career home run.

But otherwise, the Buffaloes hitters struggled to time Otake’s speeds: slow, slower, and molasses, as he mixed his 136-kph (84.5 mph) fastball with a two-seamer, a changeup and a curve. His occasional high misses didn’t hurt him as much as they perhaps changed batters’ eye levels. The end result was a lot of soft contact. Orix didn’t hit anything reasonably hard until Jones doubled with two outs in the fourth.

The Hawks wasted two walks in the first inning against Taiwanese right-hander Chang Yi but made up for it in the second. Kenta Imamiya led off with his fifth home run, Takuya Kai walked with one out and scored on leadoff man Ukyo Shuto’s two-out triple. Akira Nakamura singled and scored an insurance run in the fifth after a Ryoya Kurihara single and a Kenji Akashi double.

Chang (0-1) allowed six hits and three walks over his five innings. The right-hander, a cousin of NPB veterans Yang Dai-kang and Yang Yao-hsun, was taken by the Buffaloes in the first round of the 2016 developmental draft out of Japan University of Economics.

Otake issued his only walk of the game in the sixth and after retiring slugging left-handed hitters Masataka Yoshida and Takahiro Okada, was pulled for a righty with Jones coming to the plate. Arata Shiino got out of the inning on five pitches, and Yugo Bando, Livan Moinelo and Yuito Mori finished up with a scoreless inning each. Mori earned his 12th save.

Eagles keep pace with win over Lions

Rookie Hiroto Kobukata reached base four times and scored three runs for the Rakuten Eagles in their 7-4 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo. The win kept the Eagles tied with the Hawks for the PL lead.

Former closer Yuki Matsui allowed three runs on six hits over three innings. He left the game with a 4-3 lead and right-hander Tomohito Sakai retired all six batters he faced over two innings to earn the win. Ryosuke Tatsumi broke a 1-1 tie in the third with his fifth home run, a leadoff shot off Lions rookie Kaito Yoza (2-4).

Yoza allowed four runs over 2-1/3 innings as the Lions needed eight pitchers to get them through the night.

J.T. Chargois worked a scoreless eighth for Rakuten, while submarine right-hander Kazuhisa Makita worked the ninth to earn his first save in Japan since he saved three in 2015 for the Lions.

Marines power past Fighters

Leonys Martin’s fifth home run in six games was one of three solo shot the Lotte Marines hit in a three-run fifth en route to overcoming a five-run deficit in their 8-5 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

After Tsuyoshi Sugano doubled home Seiya Inoue with the tying run in the sixth, Martin reached on an error in the seventh and scored the go-ahead run.

The Marines comeback made a winner out of Jose Flores (1-1). The 31-year-old right-hander from Venezuela spent 10 years in the minors with the Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. The Marines acquired him from the Toyama Thunderbirds of Japan’s independent Baseball Challenge League.

Giants bang, bloop their way to comeback win

Yoshiyuki Kamei’s ninth-inning pinch-hit single lifted the Yomiuri Giants to a 4-3 walk-off win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.

Lefty Cristopher Mercedes allowed three doubles and a walk in a three-run first, and spent his remaining five innings on the mound pitching with me on base but allowing no more runs.

The Giants closed within a run on back-to-back two-out solo homers in the fourth inning from Yoshihiro Maru and Hiroyuki Nakajima. The hosts tied it in the fifth on a two-out bloop RBI single by cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto. Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi allowed three runs over six innings, and two relievers kept it tied until right-hander Yuma Oshita (0-1) allowed a leadoff single.

After a stolen base, Kamei pinch hit and got enough of the first pitch thrown by Scott McGough to hit a fly into shallow center that won it.

ToSpo pandering to the populists

There’s always some writer somewhere who’ll put a populist or racist spin on something they probably don’t understand. The Tokyo Sports used to have a pretty sordid reputation for writing the most loathsome stuff and one writer of theirs seems keen to resurrect that image when he wrote a story titled “Manager Hara spills the real truth behind Parra’s substitution.”

Hara pulled Gerardo Parra out of the game during the top of the sixth inning, and Tokyo Sports would like us to think because he was solely because he wasn’t hustling on a foul fly that dropped safely.

The manager said, “You saw what happened. It looked he was favoring his leg,” although the Tokyo Sports neglected to mention that last bit. Instead, it implied Parra was fit because no trainer came out and didn’t look hurt. They then reminded readers of the time when a Japanese star was not hustling and was sent home by Hara, implying that was the reason here.

The real truth is the thing that story wasn’t interested in when a pile of made-up shit made a better headline.

Yamada rejoins Swallows

Yakult Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada was activated on Thursday and practiced as usual with the team before their game against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome, according to the Nikkan Sports.

He was deactivated on July 27, ostensibly due to lack of upper body fitness, whatever that means.

Despaigne, Gracial to start on farm

Big-hitting Cubans Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial practiced with the Hawks Western League farm team on Thursday, and are scheduled to play in Friday’s home WL game against the Hiroshima Carp, the Nishinihon Sports reports.

The pair had gone to Cuba train with the national team in March ahead of World Baseball Classic qualifying. After qualifying was canceled, they were unable to travel to Japan until Havana’s airport re-opened for international travel in July.

The two arrived in Japan last month despite Japan’s ban on foreign nationals entering the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. After they completed quarantine they were to train with the farm team until minor league operations were suspended after infections were discovered at the minor league facility. Instead, they traveled to Sendai last week and trained with the first team.

Tigers drop Fujikawa

The Hanshin Tigers have deactivated 40-year-old reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. According to the Hochi Shimbun, the move was made due to the dreaded “lack of upper body fitness” although the article specified the afflicted area to be the right side of his upper body.

Fujikawa, who converted every save opportunity he faced after being restored to the closer’s role last summer for the first time in seven seasons, has been largely ineffective this year. He was deactivated on July 12 due to right shoulder fitness.

Active roster moves 8/13/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/23

Central League

Activated

SwallowsIF1Tetsuto Yamada

Dectivated

TigersP22Kyuji Fujikawa
CarpP58DJ Johnson
DragonsP25Yu Sato
DragonsP59Takumi Yamamoto
DragonsIF7Akira Neo
SwallowsP24Tomoya Hoshi

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP10Kotaro Otake
MarinesP24Yusuke Azuma
BuffaloesP98Chang Yi

Dectivated

HawksP21Tsuyoshi Wada
MarinesP41Kakeru Narita
BuffaloesIF31Ryo Ota

Starting pitchers for Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

Pacific League

Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Zach Neal (2-2, 4.47) vs Takahiro Norimoto (3-3, 3.66)

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ayumu Ishikawa (2-2, 3.83) vs Ryuji Kitaura (-)

Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Nao Higashihama (2-1, 3.02) vs Sachiya Yamasaki (2-1, 4.40)

Central League

Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shosei Togo (4-2, 2.86) vs Takahiro Matsuba (2-2, 2.42)

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (4-2, 1.91) vs Daiki Yoshida (1-1, 5.40)

Tigers vs Carp: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shintaro Fujinami (0-3, 2.57) vs Masato Morishita (3-2, 2.87)